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How Indonesia’s LGBT community is making a difference amid COVID-19

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, a group facing worsening discrimination in Indonesia, have been supporting people impacted by COVID-19 measures across the archipelago.

In Maumere, Yogyakarta and Surabaya, LGBT communities have organised to alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic on those in need. They have provided sustenance like food and cash to vulnerable people while facing problems of their own: losing jobs, continuing to experience discrimination and returning home to families that are not always accepting of their gender and sexuality.

Transgender communities organise support for people in need

Organisations run by transgender women, who are often marginalised, have provided support not only for their community but also for other people in need.

Known as waria in Indonesia, their experience of discrimination has not hindered their efforts to organise collectively and create a strong communal voice.

In Yogyakarta, congregants of a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) for transgender women have set up a food bank every Friday, distributing food for the waria community, pedicab drivers and other people in need.

The pesantren has provided much-needed support for the waria, who are finding it hard to earn an income due to COVID-19. Many waria engage in sex work and busking due to the lack of opportunities for formal employment.

Some waria who work as sex workers have been unable to work on the streets. Some of their clients have also been affected financially by the crisis.

Waria street musicians are still going out to work, but they say the most they can now make a day is from Rp20,000 to Rp30,000 (from U

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